The tour ticket to Shirakawago and Ainokura
In a true Chasing Places fashion, we opted to browse around before settling for a tour company to book with. We finally decided to take the Nohi Bus Tour, since the location of their office was very close to our hotel. Nohi Bus has a ticket center set up close to Takayama’s bus terminal. The terminal is also less than a 2-minute walk from the city’s main train station.
The tour office is very conspicuous, therefore it wasn’t difficult to find. After we inquired about the price, we reserved seats for the next day. But we were informed that the payment would only be accepted on the day of the tour, and that we needed to come early in the morning to book the tickets.
Nohi Bus runs several tours to various destinations all throughout the day. We chose the Ainokura and Shirakawa-go itinerary for the guided tour as these are the top two spots recommended by guidebooks when it comes to viewing gassho-zukuri architecture.
However it is important to take note that Ainokura and Shirakawa-go are not the only gassho style villages that Nohi Buses go to. The other gassho architecture-oriented itinerary also involves a visit to Shirakawa-go, but it goes to the other prominent villages in Gokayama called Suganuma.
To learn more about gassho style homes click here.
The morning tour to Shiragawa-ko and Ainokura starts at 8:30 am. There is another schedule for this itinerary during the day. Thus, if you want to get the morning tour, be sure to wake up early to purchase your tickets, which was what we actually did during our stay in Takayama.
The Tour on a Heavy Snow-Filled Day
As mentioned in the previous article, Nohi Bus loads up around 40 passengers for the tour. A dedicated English-speaking guide is the one responsible for making sure that all registered passengers are on board and comfortable. The service rendered by the guide is commendable. She used a microphone to be heard by everybody and she was quite knowledgeable, not to mention, pleasant all throughout the trip.
It is important for us to mention that visiting Shirakawa-go and Ainokura during winter can be quite tricky! From one perspective, this period is the great time to see the gassho houses in action as they were built to withstand severe snow falls. The snowy winter wonderland environment enhances the beauty and charm of these houses, which are mainly made of wood and grass roofs. But as mentioned, winter in the Hida region is rather harsh. The snowfall the region experiences is no joke. Thus, if you choose a tour in December to March, be prepared for heavy snow and even snow storms.